Category Archives: Movies

Movie Review: Me Before You

me-before-youMe Before You (2016) – based on the novel by Jojo Moyes. Starring Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin.

IMDb. Movie page. Book (Goodreads). Book (my review).

 

In case you’ve missed it, I recently read and reviewed Me Before You by Jojo Moyes, which I’d wanted to read for a while but never got around to it. Then I saw the trailer for this movie and decided that if Sam Claflin wasn’t enough to make me finally commit to the book, nothing would work. And I read it and liked it a lot.

Now, this movie review will contain SERIOUS SPOILERS for both the book and the movie (really, discussing one without the other is kind of weird at this point), so please be warned. If you want to read and/or watch these without being spoiled for anything, you should really stop reading right about now. Sorry.

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As I said, I really liked the book. It was heartfelt and powerful without being sentimental, judgemental, or any other -mental you can imagine. It dealt with a very serious topic, that of Will’s decision to end his life after an accident has left him paralyzed from the neck down, in a very down-to-earth way.

But I can see how people could disagree with the general idea of the book. It’s a book that allows a suffering man a choice to end his life on his own terms. While I agree that choices should be left to individuals, I understand why this would upset people, especially if you’re religious and believe ending your life (in any circumstances) is a grave sin. I have no such reservations about this topic – and yet the portrayal of this issue in the movie left me feeling very unsatisfied.

Movie Will (as we shall call him) is very different from Book Will. Book Will suffers a lot. Constantly. His life is a series of humiliations, pain, and diseases that very nearly kill him each time. He is depressed, hurt, and very sure he wants to die. Movie Will, however, is a gorgeous young man who just happens to be immobilized and is bemoaning the loss of his playboy days. The reasons given for Book Will’s decisions held much more weight than the reasons Movie Will gave: he mentioned not wanting to get used to this new life. Look, I can’t judge anyone for making a decision either way, I have no idea what it’s like to be in a similar situation, and thank the gods for that, but the difference between the book and the movie is profound in this regard.

And I know it’s hard to transfer a 500-page book into a 2-hour movie but I really missed Lou’s narration. She thought a lot about Will’s decision, she followed news concerning two other cases where two invalids decided to end their lives in a similar manner, along with the media shitstorm that followed. The topic is serious, as serious as it gets, really, and it’s sad to see it reduced to this whimsical option of nearly romantic escape. 

What seems interesting is that it was Jojo Moyes herself who wrote the screenplay! I wonder what made her change her opinion – or viewpoint, rather – from the book to the movie. Was it the criticism of the book? The pressure of the filmmaking company? A wish to make the story more appealing to a wider audience (though the book itself was a bestseller already)? I wish I knew.

There’s still the issue of Lou’s transformation. I mentioned it in my review but I think it was even more explicitly stated in the movie – she says something like “I changed everything about myself for you and I’m still not enough.” This, combined with Will’s superior manner, chafed a bit.

I was impressed by Claflin’s performance, though I imagined Will to be rougher around the edges – but the poor man can’t help being gorgeous, now can he? :) I was less satisfied with Clarke, who, though undeniably one of the most beautiful actresses of this generation, seemed too sentimental and even pathetically emotional at times. Her acting was okay for the most part, she captured Lou’s essence admirably, but when it came down to the really hard scenes that were supposed to make my heart bleed, I could only sigh.

The movie itself is a thing of beauty, though. I’m sure the filming location will be mobbed by hordes of fans for years (I wouldn’t mind visiting it myself). I lack the expertise and the correct words to describe what, exactly, I liked so much, but the movie was bright, shiny, and colorful. I’m not sorry I went to see it, even my husband liked it, but I wish it was truer to the original story.

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Have you seen this movie? What did you think?

Have you ever found a movie to be better than the book?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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Gone to the Movies: The Breakfast Club

gone-to-the-movies

Gone to the Movies is a monthly occasional feature that I do with Becky from A Fool’s Ingenuity. We decided to watch some old favourite romance movies (and some we’ve never seen before) together – and talk about them a bit, kind of like we would with books. You can also check out our previous chat on Romancing the Stone and When Harry Met Sally!

The movie we picked for this issue is The Breakfast Club(IMDb) We picked it because it’s a classic, though not exactly a romance – and because I hadn’t seen it before! It’s also extremely comforting to say that this movie is older than I am. :)

Don’t forget to check out Becky’s post right hereI believe she has seen it before so you’ll get a different perspective for sure.

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I liked The Breakfast Club a lot. It’s a very 80s movie, that goes without saying, and probably wouldn’t work as a blockbuster in the 21st century but I definitely see its claim to popularity. I liked the dynamics of this high school scene, it was very well done, I thought. The introduction of that horrible teacher as the authority figure that unified an otherwise incompatible group of teenagers was really good.

I have to say, though, that this kind of social segregation isn’t familiar to me. I always watch these American high school movies with some bemusement (the same goes for books) because our high schools are run in a very different manner. Of course, there are differences and cliques and all, they’re just more accidental than thematic.

Let me explain: here, you have the jock, the geek, and the beauty queen, for example. The queen would be a cheerleader these days (I don’t remember if she was actually a cheerleader then?). And it’s their extra-curricular activities that determine who they hang out with, right? Who they sit with at lunch?

In Slovenian high schools, the first thing you have is a class that stays together for the entire school day. Apart from separating girls and boys for PE classes, the entire class has the same exact schedule. So there’s no “Hey, aren’t we in English together?” going on. And if people do sports or learn other languages or belong to drama clubs, they do that in their private time after school and these activities are conducted at private establishments/clubs/whatever. So it’s very unlikely, actually, that you’d be in a football team with people from your school.

There’s usually no cafeteria, either – most people go to a nearby supermarket or sandwich shop for their snacks, and people eat lunch at home after school. So there’s no fretting over sitting positions, either. :)

Also, we don’t go to schools according to whichever is closest (we do for primary school): I picked a school in the centre of Ljubljana even though there were at least 7 high schools closer to my home. We pick them according to our grades and our interests (my high school was very, very good + offered great language courses and I went there because I had very good grades). A lot of people commuted from all over Slovenia to get there or they stayed in student housing during the week.

So what I’m trying to say is that you pick who you hang out with at school based on different criteria. My group of friends included my two closest friends from primary school (but we didn’t go to the same classes) + people with, say, a similar taste in music, some people from another school from the other side of the town and even some younger folks. I’m not even sure what kept us together.

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So this detention (oh, right, there’s no detention of this kind, either!) scene is somewhat weird for me. I mean, I’ve seen them in other American high school books/movies, it’s just not something I ever went through as a teenager.

I liked how the characters’ personalities clashed and how they explored their reasons for being the way they are. How their prejudices worked against them, how they would never have even talked if it wasn’t for this Saturday of mandatory boredom.

What I didn’t like (but is probably normal considering the movie is 30 years old) is the fact that the pathological liar receives a beauty makeover and is instantly made attractive to the jock. *sigh* I also thought the plaid-shirt-wearing asshole (sorry, I’m terrible with names) was too extreme at times – I would have punched him on his crooked nose long before he had the chance to say any of those things to me. But hey, what do I know of teenage dynamics in the 80s, right?

It was a good movie to watch, I’m glad I finally decided to see it. It has definite re-watch potential, too – more on which you can find in Becky’s post, so don’t hesitate to head over there for a different point of view! :)

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Have you seen The Breakfast Club? Do you consider it a classic, too? 

What was your high school experience like? 

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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Gone to the Movies: When Harry Met Sally

gone-to-the-movies

Gone to the Movies is a monthly feature that I do with Becky from A Fool’s Ingenuity. We decided to watch some old favourite romance movies (and some we’ve never seen before) together – and talk about them a bit, kind of like we would with books. You can also check out our previous chat on Romancing the Stone!

For February, we chose another great movie, When Harry Met Sallyfeaturing Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal. And let me tell you, there is some epic 1980s goodness here (the clothes! the hair!).

harry-sallyFirst of all, Meg Ryan is gorgeous. She’s one of my favourite actresses and Becky and I will probably watch another of her movies sometime soon. She plays Sally to perfection, she’s this control freak with emotional issues but she’s incredibly sweet and a great friend and probably one of the most loveable characters ever. And I absolutely love the fact that she’s always critical of Harry, she tells him he’s abominable and she doesn’t want to settle for anything less than love.

I have to say that Billy Crystal isn’t your typical romance hero. His character, Harry, is even less of one – he’s a cynic and his divorce makes him the worst person ever. But their romance is somehow not just completely believable but the nicest possible thing you can imagine.

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There’s this big issue in the story (and I don’t think it counts as a spoiler because it’s first mentioned like five minutes into the movie): Harry claims that men and women can’t be friends without sex getting in the way. And I want to shout balderdash or nonsense or something similar, but the fact is that I haven’t retained a single male friend that I meet up with on my own (as in, not on a double date with our significant others or something).

I had lots of male friends at University, even after I started seriously dating my husband (then boyfriend, we’ve been together since the end of our first year at Uni), but somehow we drifted apart or they got girlfriends that I didn’t necessarily get along with – or they didn’t get along with me, or they moved away or whatever. And that makes me sad. And I think that if I made a new male friend right now, I wouldn’t be able to… I don’t know, go out for drinks alone without somehow feeling

And I think that if I made a new male friend right now, I wouldn’t be able to… I don’t know, go out for drinks alone without somehow feeling guilty, even if wasn’t remotely attracted to him – because we’ve been told so many times that this just isn’t done. Or that he will certainly misconstrue my intentions – or I his. Or that people will think we’re together. And this makes me so angry! Why should we miss out on half the population just because their genitalia look different from ours? Okay, this got way out of hand but I’m conflicted on this subject. Back to the topic! :)

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I can’t even find a bad thing to say about this movie. And you know me, I always find bad things to say, I feel like I need to balance out my gushing (except when it comes to Rainbow Rowell. Then all bets are off.). But When Harry Met Sally made me relive the first time I watched this movie (with my parents, when I was probably waaaay too young to fully appreciate the iconic diner orgasm scene) and the dialogues are funny and real, and it made my insides clench in that perfect way that only the best-written romances doThis is SO RARE, people!

So I urge you to re-watch this if you haven’t seen it in a while, because yes, it’s as good as you remember. And if you haven’t seen it yet, please do, it’ll make for a perfectly entertaining night when you just need something nice.

Check out Becky’s post and join us in March when we’ll be writing about The English Patient – and don’t forget to bring tissues! :)

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Have you seen When Harry Met Sally? Is it a favourite of yours, too? 

Do you have any similar recs for me?

Do YOU think that men and women can be friends without sex getting in the way?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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Gone to the Movies: Romancing the Stone

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Becky and I have teamed up for a new feature this year because we chatted about watching old romance favourites during the holidays and decided it’s high time we re-watched some of them – together. Well, sort of. We made a list of our “must see” romance movies and then discovered that while our tastes align in many ways, we just can’t see eye to eye on others (Richard Gere being one notable example). :)

So if you’re interested in re-visiting the past and your teenage years, you might want to join us in watching (and reviewing, if that’s your thing) these movies – our posts will probably go live on the third Monday of each month, but things may vary because of LIFE, which does tend to interfere from time to time. So here’s the list for the next months:

  • February: When Harry Met Sally
  • March: The English Patient
  • April: Dirty Dancing

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For January, though, we have a special old-school treat for you. It’s Romancing the Stone month and let me tell you, this movie is great. It has everything you can expect from an 80’s romantic comedy. We picked it because Becky said she remembers watching it as a kid – and I said I did, too, though I only remembered the heroes being very wet in the jungle.

romancing-the-stoneThe heroine, Joan Wilder, is a romance novelist. Since this is the 80’s (the movie is from 1984), the romances she writes are pretty old school, with Wild West settings and horses and all. She lives alone with her cat, Romeo, and her editor is constantly trying to set her up, but Joan is waiting for her Prince Charming (or rather, a cowboy who would sweep her off her feet and ride with her into the sunset).

But then one day, she receives a weird letter from her sister’s deceased husband (we find out he’d been murdered in Colombia), her apartment gets trashed and her sister calls: she’s been kidnapped and the letter Joan received contains a very valuable treasure map that Joan is to bring to Colombia or else. And so begins the adventure of a complete city girl leaving on a trip she’s in no way prepared for.

Well, let’s leave the plot at that because there really aren’t that many plot twists in this movie and I’d probably spoil them all for you – and let’s focus on the characters. First of all, Joan is great. She can be a bit of a damsel in distress and she’s painfully naïve, but I liked her tenacity and her ability to adapt to the situation despite it being her worst possible nightmare. I really like Kathleen Turner, she’s so pretty and I think she plays the role to perfection.

Then there’s Jack – the mercenary, unwilling savior who happens upon Joan in a moment of need. I … I’m not fully convinced by Jack as a love interest. First of all, I know Michael Douglas was considered a hottie back in the 80’s but his blue eyes and strong jaw just don’t do it for me. Also, Jack’s actions towards Joan weren’t all that honorable. Eh, he gets a 2/5 star rating for a love interest from me.

I completely forgot that Danny DeVito stars in this movie, his character offers the comic relief I’ve come to expect from him. Also, the villain is cheesy but sufficiently evil (he has a very villainy mustache), so we have all the boxes checked for an adventure/romance.

All in all, I think this movie is well worth a re-watch if you remember seeing it as a kid and want to relive the glory of the 80’s. It’s actually older than me (not by much, though), but I do remember it being run on the TV a lot during my childhood. If you haven’t seen it yet and if you’re in the mood for some horrible style choices and a typical romantic plotline, it can definitely offer some relaxing entertainment. Oh, and it apparently has a sequel.

Some of the movies we picked for this feature are like Romancing the Stone – we’re fully aware they’re cheesy but we loved them as kids and we want to give them another go. But others are great, meaningful movies that we’ve had on our to-watch lists forever. In any case, we’d be very happy if you decided to join us and chat about these old gems! And don’t forget to check out Becky’s post as well!

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Have you seen Romancing the Stone? What did you think?

Do you like watching old favourites or are you afraid of ruining the memory?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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The Same Old Story

I love fairytales – and fairytale retellings, which is why I joined the Fairytale Challenge hosted by the awesome Mel of The Daily Prophecy and wrote a post about it. I love the magic, the tradition, the belief that good always wins over evil. 

I am quite sick, however, of hearing the same damn story over and over again.

cinderellaWhat I’m trying to say is: I saw the new Cinderella movie this week (yay for date night!) and I was so disappointed. I don’t think they’ve added a single new aspect to the story that’s hundreds of years old! It’s the same as the Disney cartoon from the 1950s! I made a list of things that bothered me:

  • The music. While I’m sure my husband was happy nobody broke into a spontaneous singing session, the music was sappy and boring.
  • The costumes. When I go see a fantasy/fairytale/historical movie, I expect gorgeous dresses. These were mainly confections of glitter and fluff – kitchy and over-the-top “magical”. Also, Cindy spends 80 % of the movie wearing one dress, even before her father’s gone.
  • Cinderella. Look, Lily James is one gorgeous young woman. I haven’t watched Downton Abbey but I imagine that given a proper role, she shines like the bright star that she is. Her character in this movie, however, was even more of a simpleton than the 50s incarnation – I wished I could shake her and tell her to burn the stepmother’s toast, at least! She just wept, twirled around with her eyes closed, and kept regurgitating that “courage and kindness” line over and over again. I get it, it’s your personal mantra – but still.
  • Kit/Prince Charming. OH MY GOD. Richard Madden has to be the worst Prince Charming in history. I DARE YOU to find a less swoon-worthy prince. Try it. You’ll fail. I adored the guy as Robb Stark, so it’s not that I don’t find him attractive or anything but his wooden one-liners made me want to chuck things at the screen. Instead, I groaned out loud and tried to unsee how orange his skin was. Or how Cindy’s dress at the royal ball matched his baby blue eyes (GAK). Or how… Actually, I just want to unsee his entire performance. Especially that moment where he cries, curled up in fetal position.

Anyway, there were a few redeeming qualities – the lizard footmen, the fairy godmother (Helena Bonham Carter), and even at times Cate Blanchett’s evil stepmother. But these moments were too rare to make me like this movie.

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This rant was perhaps the final nudge I needed to write about a related issue: I am tired of reading fairytale retellings that tell the same story. Ok so this might sound nonsensical, but hear me out. 

Mel listed several ideas she wants to see in books – and this is what I would love to see, too: stories that take the original tale and twist it into something new, something original.

I am sick and tired of reading about the same patriarchal ideas that the brothers Grimm managed to weave into their collection. I wish for more un-Disney-like stories (I like Disney as much as anyone but my favourite was always Mulan, not Cinderella, for example). I want active, decisive heroines and unusual settings.

I recently read several retellings that differed vastly in this regard (none of these are as bad as the movie Cinderella):

  • uprooted-naomi-novikA Court of Thorns and Roses seemed different at first but in truth, it doesn’t really add anything new to the Beauty and the Beast story. I liked it well enough.
  • Cruel Beauty was a book I read almost a year ago and while it definitely had some problems (like instalove), I really liked the twist to the original story.
  • Scarlet was a great new find for me! It’s a Robin Hood retelling where Will Scarlet, one of Robin’s faithful companions, is a girl. A cross-dressing girl.
  • But Uprooted takes the prize because it is, hands down, the best retelling I’ve read – probably ever. Look for my review next week because it’ll be full of failing and rolling around in glee. Read this book once it’s published, people. Read. It.

To sum this up: know for a fact that great fairytale retellings exist because I have read them. So I don’t really understand why some people insist on writing/filming stories that bring absolutely nothing new to the game. I wish people would give those millions of dollars to someone who would make Uprooted a movie, for example. If enough people ask for it, maybe our wishes will come true! ;)

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Have you seen this Cinderella version? What did you think?

I’d love some good fairytale retelling recommendations! 

What story would you like to see twisted and told in a different way?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

Movie Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

guardians_of_the_galaxyGuardians of the Galaxy, Marvel Studios, 2014.

Director: James Gunn.

Runtime: 121 minutes.

Stars: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Vin Diesel, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper.

IMDb. Facebook. Official Site.

IMDb rating: 8.6/10.

My rating: 7/10.

 

 

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I’m a fan of Marvel movies. And other sci-fi (I think the Star Trek movies might just be my favourites). I’ve watched both Thor movies, X-MenThe AvengersCaptain America, Iron Man (though this one isn’t a favourite) and so on. But I’ve never read the comics, so I never know what true fans think about these adaptations. For me, they are an excellent opportunity to see some kick-ass action, gorgeous heroes, bantery humor and cool storylines. I always watch them with my husband, who enjoys all of the above, but prefers Natalie Portman to Chris Hemsworth. So they’re movies made for the both of us, which is cool. :)

I really liked Guardians of the Galaxy. I liked the characters, the smart dialogue, and the soundtrack – the soundtrack was really great, people! I liked that the movie didn’t take itself too seriously, because serious sci-fi is really hard to get right.

I loved Rocket, the genetically engineered racoon whom Bradly Cooper brought to life in such an awesome fashion. I think the last Bradley Cooper movie I saw was American Hustle, so I kept seeing his terrible, terrible hairdo, but I’m really happy with what he did with the racoon. Groot the tree was cool as well, though he didn’t require that much innovation when it came to his lines (I am Groot.). He reminded me a bit of Hodor from The Game of Thrones, truth be told, and I’m never sure if these similarities are accidental, a nod to the previously existing bit of culture, or plagiarism. Anyway, I thought the tiny dancing Groot was really cute!

Chris Pratt was just handsome enough to pull off Peter Quill’s cocky attitude. I haven’t really seen him in other movies before, so I can’t compare this performance to others, but I liked him well enough. As I’ve said, the movie doesn’t take itself too seriously, so Quill isn’t some gorgeous heart-throb (he’s more of a Captain Kirk from Star Trek than a Thor, I’d say), but I think found the walkman-listening scene with Gamora to be one of the best in the movie.

And then we come to Gamora. Gamora, played by a green-skinned Zoe Saldana, is a genetically mutated assassin. And she’s kick-ass, she really is, perfectly trained and everything. She’s got a tragic past and all, but I still felt she was rather too… bland. While she smacked around the bad guys, she never took the initiative but mostly followed other people’s (other men’s) orders and ideas. As one of the five main characters in the movie – and the only female – she really could have been more fleshed-out and self-sufficient. I always have a problem with this, I can’t help it.

From the movies I’ve listed only X-Men come close to anything remotely similar to gender equality, I’m sad to say. I always feel like I’m repeating myself when I start going on about “hot females who look like they’re independent and are dangerous and all but are only there to serve as props most of the time”. Think of Uhura (also played by Saldana) in Star Trek, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in The Avengers, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) in Thor, Mikaela (Megan Fox) in Transformers, Lois Lane (Amy Adams) in Superman and Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) in The Amazing Spider-Man. I really wish for a heroine that would have her own agenda, her own sense of purpose and her very own strength, regardless of her male companions. Maybe Wonder Woman and the female Thor will change this, and maybe sci-fi will always be ruled by men. But I hope not.

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If you’d like to check out other book bloggers’ reviews of the movie, here are two I’ve encountered: Book Haven and Reviews from a Bookworm.

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Have you watched the movie? I’d love to hear your thoughts! 

Have you also read the comics? Do you like Marvel’s movies in general?